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“They always intended to maintain lockstep, but it has become impossible,” says one former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner after the firm voted through a radical shake-up of its lockstep last week.

A current partner concedes that the move – which extends Freshfields’ lockstep ladder to a 60-point peak for star performers that equates to around £3m, and adds three gates lower down to control progress – was inevitable.

“You can see the way the world is moving; it is not exactly as if this is unchartered territory,” he says, referencing similar moves to flex lockstep by magic circle rivals, as well as the more merit-based pay systems in place at many US firms as drivers.

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James Booth

James joined Legal Week in June 2015. He reports on leading UK law firms, as well as covering the African legal market. He previously worked for legal directory Chambers & Partners as a deputy editor.

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